Posted: July 8, 2015
- You have company, and not even know it, except for the damage they leave behind. The weather is perfect for these pests to gain a foothold in the garden, even though the slime their way around. Slugs can do a tremendous amount of damage, and unless you are looking for them, you never notice.
- Slugs are one of the most destructive and difficult pests to control. Seedlings of many vegetables and flowers are favored foods, and high populations of slugs can cause difficulties in establishing a crop. Slugs also feed on many fruits and vegetables prior to harvest. This preharvest feeding results in wounds that allow various fungi and bacteria to enter and spoil the crop. In addition, the slime trails produced by slugs can contaminate garden produce.
- Slug injury is sometimes difficult to diagnose because slugs hide during the day. Smaller leaves may be eaten entirely, while only the edges of larger leaves may be consumed. Thick leaves often are rasped from the leaf underside. The presence of slime trails often is the best indication of slug activity.
- The level of a slug population depends on the moisture conditions in a garden. Any practices that decrease moisture will reduce slug problems, although effects may not be seen immediately.
- Eliminate potential shelter for slugs, remove surface debris in and around the garden, such as loose boards, bricks, stones, trash piles, compost piles, weeds, and other such material. Increase air movement around plants and use wider plant spacing. Use drip irrigation, soaker lines or other techniques to limit water and decrease the humidity around plants. Cultivating the soil will hasten drying of the surface and in turn will reduce slug activity.
- Care must be exercised if you decide to use a chemical control. Slugs are not affected by regular insecticides. You must use a product especially for them. Metaldehyde is the most commonly used and effective. However, given enough moisture, slugs can recover from exposure. Products with this ingredient cannot be used around food crops and pose a hazard to dogs. Newer products with iron phosphate or ferric phosphate can be used on edibles and are relativity safe around pets.
For more information on slugs, contact the Penn State Master Gardeners in Lackawanna County at 570-963-6842 or email: LackawannaMG@psu.edu. Also, we will be at the Library Express in the Steamtown Mall, Lackawanna Avenue, Scranton, during the month of July, every Tuesday from noon to 3 p.m. Come visit us there.